Perhaps surprisingly, there is a lot more technology and thought behind paint and finishing brushes for trim than meets the eye. In fact, most brushes are designed with a specific task in mind, such as applying a finishing coat on a smooth surface, and everything from the bristle material to the handle shape is designed for this task.
While most paint brushes may look largely the same at first glance, choosing a brush may require a bit more thought than one might expect. Finding the perfect brush among the seemingly endless options for bristle materials, lengths, and designs can feel like a greater challenge than the actual project.
However, a well-designed brush helps provide a cleaner, more professional look. The best paint brushes for trim are precisely designed, high quality, reasonably priced, and long lasting with proper care. See which ones made our list of top picks and how to find the right one for any trim-painting project.
- BEST OVERALL: Pro 2″ Trylon Thin Angled Sash Paint Brush
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Pro Grade Paint Brush Set
- BEST FOR BASEBOARDS: Purdy XL Elite Dale Chinex/Polyester Brush Angle Sash
- BEST FOR WINDOW TRIM: Richard Elegance Trim Brush
- BEST FOR TIGHT SPACES: Wooster Brush Q3211-2 Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush
- BEST REACH: Richard 2½” Goose Neck Paint Brush
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Paint Brush for Trim
Whether they’re for artists, DIYers, or contractors, paint brushes feature four main parts: the bristles, also known as the sash; the ferrule, which is the metal piece that connects the bristles to the handle; the crimp, which is the riveted section that tightens the ferrule around the handle; and the handle, which can come in a variety of shapes and is usually made from wood or acrylic. When choosing the best paint brush for trim work, the ferrule and crimp are less important features, but the handle, the bristle shape and material, and size should be carefully considered.
Typical house-painting-size brushes fall between 1 and 6 inches in width. As a general rule of thumb, tighter spaces benefit from smaller brush widths, while larger brushes get projects done faster because they can hold and apply more paint on a single pass.
Within that size range, trim brush sizes range between 1 and 2½ inches wide because they are designed for tighter spaces. Although 1 to 2½ inches may seem small, it’s much easier to add time to the application process than it is to remove excess paint slathered on by a wider than necessary brush.
The length of the sash, on the other hand, isn’t that important. However, the length of the handle can affect the brush’s ergonomics, so when considering how comfortable a brush is to use, keep handle length in mind.
Trim brushes almost always come in a flat, angled style as opposed to round, but they vary widely in terms of bristle shape. There are three main categories of shape to choose from:
- Chisel: Chisel brushes feature slanted bristles that are ideal for crisp, straight lines. Chisel brushes are often used by professionals in corners and along edges.
- Angled: Angled brushes, also known as cutting brushes, have their bristles cut at a slant, which allows the user to get clean, controlled lines. Angled brushes are especially useful for narrow areas.
- Square: Square trim paint brushes are quite common and are used to apply paint over flat surfaces. However, while square-cut brushes are more efficient, they’re not as controllable or precise as their chisel and angled counterparts.
There are two types of bristles: natural and synthetic. Natural bristles are made from the hair of animals such as hogs, badgers, sables, and horses. Synthetic bristles are made from polyester or a blend of nylon and polyester and tend to be cheaper. Natural bristles, like your own hair, feature tiny splits throughout the fiber that allow them to hold more paint and apply a smoother finish. However, these splits are also the reason a natural-bristle paint brush shouldn’t be used with water-based paint—it will absorb too much of it and apply it unevenly. Natural-bristle brushes are best used for oil-based paints and traditional wood finishes, such as shellac and polyurethane. Synthetic brushes aren’t nearly as absorbent as natural-bristle brushes, which makes them ideal for latex and acrylic-based paints.
Although certain handles are designed for specific tasks, the right handle for any project depends ultimately on comfort. After all, if a paint brush is not comfortable to use, the whole project could flounder. For example, although a short handle can get into hard-to-reach areas, using one for an entire project could cause a user’s hand to tire quickly. Conversely, a large handle could be a challenge to grasp consistently. Painting, like many home improvement tasks, is about finding the balance between efficiency and comfort, and nowhere is that more evident than in the handle choice.
Our Top Picks
For quick touch-ups or several long-term projects, these are the best trim paint brushes for a variety of trim painting tasks.
The Pro 2-Inch Trylon Thin Angled Sash Paint Brush is a great choice for someone who paints often and is willing to invest a bit more for a paint brush of this size. The synthetic Trylon bristles work in tandem with the tapered edge and thin handle for maximum precision, which is ideal for trim that traverses plenty of corners. The tightly packed, absorbent Trylon bristles also allow users to spread the most paint in a single application, cutting down on project time. Plus, its rubberized handle provides just enough cushion to keep users comfortable during long painting sessions without jeopardizing firmness and, therefore, precision.
However, because this brush absorbs a good amount of paint, it does require a thorough cleaning. Users should remove any extra paint with soap and water (or a solvent if necessary), taking care to clean the interior bristles as well. A proper cleaning helps ensure that the bristles are soft and pliable enough for the next use.
- Size: 2½ inches
- Shape: Angled
- Bristle type: Synthetic, Trylon
- Trylon bristles absorb and release a lot of paint
- Can be used for any paint type
- Trylon bristles are quite durable
- Expensive for a 2-inch brush
- Difficult to clean
Get the Pro Trylon paint brush for trim at The Home Depot.
For those who may have trouble choosing one type of brush, the Pro Grade Paint Brush Set, which includes five unique brushes of varying shapes and sizes, is a great choice. Don’t be fooled by the price tag. These are high-quality brushes. Rather than try to make a single brush as versatile as possible, the Pro Grade Paint Brush Set offers the right trim paint brush for most jobs, regardless of the shape and size of the trim. Plus, affordability doesn’t come at the expense of high-quality materials with these brushes.
- Size: 1 to 2½ inches
- Shape: Angled and flat
- Bristle type: Synthetic, solid round tapered (SRT) filament
- 5 brushes for a great price
- SRT bristles are durable
- SRT bristles are absorbent and provide good release
- Some bristles may become loose after a few uses
- Soft bristles aren’t ideal for precision painting
Get the Pro Grade paint brushes for trim on Amazon.
Purdy has been a leader in the paint brush industry for decades, and its experience is evident in the XL Elite Dale trim brush. This brush truly stands out due to the firmness of its bristles, which provide for a smooth, precise application regardless of how rough the surface is. While the flat edge lacks the precision of a tapered edge, the firm bristles more than make up for it. Plus, the flat edge allows users to spread more paint over rounded surfaces, such as the trim pieces on windowpanes and baseboards.
Although it’s not the cheapest brush out there, it packs a serious punch in terms of the quality of materials used. With the stainless steel ferrule and the genuine alderwood handle, this brush will perform in project after project.
- Size: 1½ inches
- Shape: Angled
- Bristle type: Synthetic, polyester and nylon blend
- Stiff bristles increase precision
- Long handle allows for grip versatility
- Mimics the splits of natural bristles for a smoother finish
- Can be used with all paint types
- Nontapered edge isn’t ideal for corners
- Not good for large, flat surfaces
- Long handle can make it difficult to get into tight spaces
Get the Purdy paint brush for trim on Amazon or at Ace Hardware.
One of the hardest parts of touching up or repainting trim work is the fact that it’s always directly next to a surface that differs in color, or that doesn’t have any color at all, such as a window. This brush is specifically designed to fix that problem with its tapered, round sash. The polyester bristles have excellent absorption and a controlled release that give users the necessary time to get clean lines. Plus, the handle is wrapped in a soft rubberlike material for a firm grip, which is essential for painting a large amount of trim. However, because the brush is small, round, and tapered, it may take quite a while to cover a relatively small area. That said, this seems to be a fair trade-off for the utmost in precision.
- Size: ⅞ inch
- Shape: Round
- Bristle type: Synthetic, polyester
- Soft-grip handle is comfortable during extended use
- Round brush shape is precise
- Paint pickup is generous, and the release is even
- Nearly invisible brushstrokes
- Shape and size of brush make it less efficient
- Designed to work with latex paint above all other types
- Not great for anything that isn’t trim
Get the Richard Elegance paint brush for trim on Amazon.
As the name implies, the Wooster Shortcut is an efficient paint brush that’s designed for the control and comfort needed to pull perfect lines every time. In addition to increasing comfort, the short handle also prevents blisters from forming over a multiday paint job because there’s less surface area for fingers and palms to rub against. The shortened handle is also ideal for difficult spaces, such as baseboard corners or crown molding. The stubby nature of this handle reduces the strain on the wrist from having to twist and contort constantly to fit into tight spaces. The 2-inch brush arguably offers the best of both worlds. It’s precise enough for trim but wide enough to cover a larger area efficiently.
There are a few things users should keep in mind when working with this handy little brush. First, having a hand that close to the bristles isn’t a recipe for cleanliness, so it may be helpful to have a clean rag close by. Second, using a short handle for an extended amount of time may cause discomfort for some because it can force users to change their natural grip. Longer painting sessions with this brush may require some break time. Finally, while the polyester-and-nylon blend bristles strike a good balance between durability and smoothness, they can leave some streaks on the first and second coats.
- Size: 2 inches
- Shape: Angled
- Bristle type: Synthetic, nylon and polyester
- Handle design makes the brush feel like part of your hand
- Highly controllable
- Durable, easy-to-maintain bristles
- Creates streaks
- Easy to spill on yourself
Get the Wooster paint brush for trim at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or The Home Depot.
Painting trim often means bending over or reaching overhead for hours on end, which understandably leads to discomfort. The Richard 2½-Inch Goose Neck Paint Brush is designed to solve this problem with its flexible yet sturdy handle and extension pole compatibility. The flexible handle can be bent in any direction and will hold any angle for hours without needing readjustment.
This means that users can paint both the baseboard and the crown molding from the same position by adding a simple extension pole. While getting another accessory may seem expensive at first, especially since this brush is already sold at a premium price, it’s far cheaper than renting or purchasing in-home extension ladders and painter’s scaffolding.
- Size: 2½ inches
- Shape: Angled
- Bristle type: Synthetic, nylon and polyester
- 2½-inch sash has great coverage
- Compatible with extension poles
- Handle can be bent to fit any angle
- Smooth application
- Soft bristles limit precision and paint versatility
- Relatively expensive
Get the Richard Goose Neck paint brush for trim on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
For those in the market for a versatile trim paint brush that can do it all, look no further than the Pro Trylon paint brush for trim. With bristles that split just like natural fibers, this paint brush leaves a smoother finish with fewer streaks. The Pro Grade paint brushes for trim, on the other hand, offer incredible value and versatility for a low cost. Pro Grade has given consumers five specific-use brushes for the price of one high-end brush.
How We Chose the Best Paint Brushes for Trim
Each paint brush on this list earned a spot after extensive research that included everything from hands-on experience, product specifications, and dozens of professional and DIYer reviews. In conducting our research, we paid particular attention to the bristles’ quality and the brush’s perceived longevity compared to the price.
We made sure to consider brushes of all shapes, sizes, styles, and price points to ensure we recommended the best brushes for a variety of customers. In addition to the above primary considerations, we also took brand reputation into account.
Lastly, as a professionally trained woodworker, the author has had countless hours of hands-on experience with many of these brushes and can attest to their quality, durability, and functionality.
Tips for Painting Trim
With proper care, the best trim brushes can last a long time. Follow these steps when using, cleaning, and even storing a brush to maximize its utility and value.
- Use up all the paint on the brush before cleaning and storing it; run it out on a newspaper or other scrap material if need be.
- Once you’re done with the paint brush, immerse it in a solvent; use mineral spirits or turpentine to remove oil-based paints and hot water with dish soap to remove latex paints.
- After washing the brushes in warm soapy water, remove excess water by shaking and spinning the brush before storing it.
With so many options to choose from, and all of them promising to get the job done, finding the best brush for trim paint isn’t as easy as you might think. Some brushes are better suited for certain tasks. For example, if you have an extended painting task that’s going to require many hours of work, it may be wise to place a higher value on the ergonomics of the handle. Making sure that you’re using the right brush in the right manner will help ensure great results.
Still deciding which brush for trim painting is best? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about how to use and care for paint brushes for trim.
Q. What’s the best type of paint brush for trim?
The best type of paint brush for trim will have an angled or chiseled sash that allows you to create precise lines without having to worry about paint spillover and an ergonomic handle that comfortably fits into your hand. Keep in mind that a trim brush typically isn’t any wider than 2½ inches or any narrower than 1 inch.
Q. How do I get a smooth finish on painted trim?
First and foremost, a brush with soft bristles is ideal for smoothness. The softer the bristles are, the smoother the finish tends to be. Make sure the surface you’re painting is clean and free of debris before applying your first coat.
Q. Should I paint trim or walls first?
Professional painters tend to paint the trim first because it requires the most detailed work and is easiest to accomplish when you don’t have to worry about fixing your mistakes—you can just cover them up when you go back to paint the walls and ceiling. Plus, once it’s dry and you start to paint the ceiling and walls, taping off the newly painted trim isn’t too hard.
Q. What type of paint is used for trim?
Some paint manufacturers provide paint specifically formulated for trim, although this tends to be more expensive. Oil-based paint is cheaper than trim-specific paint and has the same viscosity that helps it stay put when applied vertically and the same slow drying time that allows it to fill any dents and scratches, which is especially helpful for baseboard trim. Also, consider something with a semi-gloss or shinier finish since these are the easiest to wipe clean.
Q. Do I need to prime trim before painting?
If you are painting your trim for the first time, adding a layer of primer can help create a smoother look, but if you’re repainting your trim the same color it was before, you don’t need to worry about priming.
Q. How do I clean trim before painting?
Use tack cloth, which is a lint-free rag that’s coated in a sticky substance that picks up and removes dust and debris before painting. If you don’t want to purchase tack cloth, using a damp cloth is the best alternative.